"Do you want to call this discount?" Katz asked. "You can. You can get first-class merchandise at a discount price."
Michelle Shannon, vice president of marketing at the Center City District, doesn't particularly like to characterize Market between Sixth and Eleventh Streets as a discount district.
"I don't think that's what Market Street is going to end up being," she said.
True, it is currently occupied by Burlington Coat Factory, Ross Dress for Less, Kmart, Old Navy in the Gallery, and soon Marshalls, all stores in that category.
But when Shannon lists those stores, the common element for her isn't discount, it's "big box" - as in the retailing behemoths Bed Bath & Beyond, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Best Buy ringing the suburbs in big shopping centers.
Those are types of merchants she'd like to see near the Gallery.
"Marshalls, while it's not Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom, it's a bell-cow retailer: It leads the others. The fact that Marshalls has decided to invest here makes an important statement to other retailers," she said.
"Retailers are like lemmings," Shannon said. "They are not making risky investments."
Katz's company, Jenel Management Corp., swept up 1026-1044 Market St. 12 years ago, as part of a group buy of former F.W. Woolworth stores, mostly in its hometown of New York.
For the last 10 years, the building housed a Staples, but it has recently been vacant. Now, 48,000 square feet on the concourse and third floors are occupied by the Freire Charter's middle school, with room for 500 students.
"They put $5.5 million into that school," Katz said. "Marshalls can't open a store anywhere for less than $2 million."
Marshalls will occupy 28,000 square feet on the street and second floor and employ 75 full- and part-time workers, the company said. Lease price was $12 per square foot, according to Jenel's website.
Marshalls is part of TJX Co. Inc. It's been a good year for the Massachusetts-based company, which includes T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods.
For the first two quarters, the company reported sales of $11.7 billion from more than 2,900 stores in the United States, Canada, and Europe, up from $10.7 billion for the same period in 2011. Profits also grew to $840.3 million from $614.3 in the prior year.
In that same period, Marshalls increased the number of stores it operates to 891 from 875. The Center City store will join 18 other Marshalls stores in the region.
Armendinger, managing director of Penn's Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School, said Marshalls is particularly good at matching its merchandise to a neighborhood.
Antoinette Johnson, a mother of three from Northeast Philadelphia who frequently shops in Center City, agreed.
As she watched workers inside installing shelving and wiring, she said she is looking forward to the store opening in Center City.
"You can go in Burlington Coat Factory and get something for $5, get something for $3 in Marshalls, and then go to Old Navy and get some shoes for $10," she said. "There's a good shopping vibe here."
Contact Jane M. Von Bergen at email@example.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing.